Hurricane Katrina Trip 2005\r\n By Daisy & Steve Hilts\r\n\r\n\r\nAugust 28th- The beginning.\r\nKatrina was an extraordinarily powerful and deadly hurricane that carved a wide swath of catastrophic damage and inflicted large loss of life. It was the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever strike the United States. Katrina first caused fatalities and damage in southern Florida as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. After reaching Category 5 intensity over the central Gulf of Mexico, Katrina weakened to Category 4 before making landfall on the northern Gulf coast. Even so, the damage and loss of life inflicted by this massive hurricane in Louisiana and Mississippi were staggering, with significant effects extending into the Florida panhandle, Georgia, and Alabama. Considering the scope of its impacts, Katrina was one of the most devastating natural disasters in United States history. \r\nAt 7 a.m. on August 29, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Louisiana coast between Grand Isle and the mouth of the Mississippi River as a strong Category 4 hurricane. The devastation she would bring to the Gulf Coast was widespread and unimaginable. Though warnings had been issued for days and evacuations initiated, thousands stood in the path of one of the strongest storms in the history of America. Left with no power, no drinking water, dwindling food supplies, and steadily rising waters from major levee breaches, survivors also faced life-threatening looting and widespread fires. \r\n\r\n\r\nAugust 31 - Wednesday \r\nAs the Urban Search and Rescue team, (USAR) California Task Force 3 that Daisy and I belong to was at the bottom of the list of the 28 national FEMA teams to respond to the disaster, I thought I would go to the Red Cross to volunteer. After I completed most of the paperwork and was leaving the building and getting into my car, my cell phone rang; it was about 10:30 AM. It was Shirley, the K9 coordinator of the task force. She officially notified me that we were being called out and to get to the departure point in Menlo Park within two hours! So after the many years of training every Sunday rain or shine, Daisy and I were finally going to get a crack at using our skills! Would we measure up? I hope so.\r\nAnyway, I quickly went back into the Red Cross office and notified them that I would not be available for assignment with them, as I had just been called out with the Task Force. Talk about bad timing.\r\nI immediately called Elvia my wife to inform her of what was happening. \r\nFrom her voice I could tell she was excited for me but also very concerned about what Daisy and I would be getting into once we arrived at our destination. It was still unclear if we would be going to New Orleans or Mississippi.\r\n\r\nOn my way home, I went to the store to buy batteries and power bars. \r\nI also stopped by work, and notified them that would be leaving town on deployment for an undetermined amount of time. \r\nAs this was our first deployment, I wanted to make sure I did everything right and did not forget anything.\r\n\r\n Once I arrived home, Daisy excitedly greeted me. Daisy is my 4-year-old Yellow Labrador. She is a certified FEMA Type 1 disaster search dog, one of about 100 in the nation. As I frantically rushed around the house throwing our possessions into one big pile, Daisy excitedly followed me around barking. She knew something was different with me by the unusual way I was acting and assumed that we were getting ready to go outside and play ball. \r\n\r\nI thought I was fairly well organized, but boy was I wrong! After about twenty trips up and down the stairs, Daisy\'s and my gear was finally organized. I tossed the gear and Daisy in the car and we were off on the first leg of our trip.\r\nOn the way to Menlo Park I\'m nervously made a few last minute phone calls to customers about some pending business. I probably did not make any sense to anyone I talked to, as I was so keyed up and nervous.\r\n\r\nOnce we arrived at Menlo Park we parked a about a mile or so away from the warehouse so as to not congest the area with all of our cars. Daisy and I then took the shuttle bus over to the warehouse with all of our gear. \r\nAt the warehouse there did not seem to be a great amount of people. I later learned that the team had been called out in a staggered manner. At the warehouse I signed in and stood in line to fill out an array of forms. \r\nI then had a quick medical checkup and gave a DNA sample. The physical was to get a baseline on us in case we had some medical issues after we returned home. The DNA sample was in case of a personal accident where they would only find little pieces of you. Wow, that sure wasn\'t in the travel brochure! \r\nI nervously mentioned to the doctor that my blood pressure must be pretty high. He said it was, but a lot better than some my other teammates. \r\nScary thought. I next went into the equipment room, where I was issued more gear. I spent the next hour or so packing and repacking Daisy\'s and my gear so it would fit in to three bags. \r\nDaisy was next to me in a down stay, as I sorted the gear on the floor of the big warehouse that we were in. She stayed busy looking at the commotion around us.\r\nBy the time I had almost finished with my gear, the other three dog handlers had arrived, Carol, Bud, and Bob. We started comparing notes on gear and expectations on where we would be going. I knew I was surrounded by a cocoon of highly experienced teammates/ dog handlers.\r\nAs we were talking, Shirley came over and said that the press wanted to interview one of the dog handlers and get a photo opportunity. We all looked at each other and in unison pointed to Bob, who is known to talk well and long!\r\nPat Grant, a friend/ vet/ teammate gave the dogs a base line physical for their safety. Pat and her dog Topper had been to Oklahoma City bombing and 911 so she knew exactly what were facing and gave me some advice on how to handle myself.\r\nAfter the exam Daisy won the clean ear award but flunked the thermometer in the butt part. \r\nThe rest of the task force team had now gathered and we were a full complement of approximately 72 and ready to leave. The team was comprised of search, rescue, hazmat, communications, logistics, medical, safety and heavy equipment people. I was later to find out that each and everyone one of them was excellent at their job and as a teammate.\r\n\r\nAt approximately 6:30 PM we boarded the buses and we were officially off! Daisy and I had officially made it to the \"show\"! We got a police escort out of town to help speed us on our way. As all of our busses were unmarked for security reasons, I wondered what the people in other vehicles thought about our convoy? \r\nAs we were leaving town, we learned that our destination was to be Houston, Texas. Once in Houston, FEMA would let us know our ultimate destination. \r\nThe approximate drive time was to be 47 HRS. Each bus had three drivers, so we could keep the two buses moving around the clock. Our convoy consisted of two passenger buses, two long line trucks and a command vehicle. We stopped about every four or five hours for breaks and fuel at various Flying J truck stops. \r\nAt these stops, we grabbed something to eat, made last minute purchases and tried to catch a glimpse of CNN on the TV in the drivers lounge to see what was happening down South.\r\nLuckily, Daisy and I were aboard the same bus as Carol and her dog Rowley. Daisy and Rowley train together every Sunday, so it was party time for them! They played on and off the whole 3 days we were on the bus, good for them but tiring for us handlers.\r\nThe bus company had removed the last four rows of seats so the drivers that were not driving could rest on some mattresses that were placed on the floor. \r\nSo Carol and I, along with the dogs quickly went to the back of the bus so as to have more room for the dogs. \r\nAfter a short period of time, Daisy preceded to make herself at home, by walking up and down the aisle visiting with the rest of the team members. Most people reached out and petted her as she went past. They thought she was being friendly, I knew she was just trolling for food! \r\n I consciously let her do this, so the rest of the team could become familiar with her. I also was very aware of keeping her from becoming a pest. \r\nWe drove into the night....\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 1- Thursday\r\nWe are still on the bus, driving. My life was centered on keeping Daisy happy and well cared for. At one of the rest stops, I wasn\'t paying attention and Daisy walked down the aisle and out the front door of the bus! By the time I figured out she wasn\'t in the bus, she was not in sight. \r\nI frantically ran off the bus and found her happily sniffing around a bush close by. I put a leash on her and re-boarded the bus feeling the fool. \r\nCarol and I established a routine where one of us would stay with the dogs and the other would get something to eat. \r\nWe did this, as the truck stops were pretty busy and we did not want to chance having a dog disappear.\r\n\r\nNaturally, we made a stir at the truck stops, as all 74 of us were in uniform.\r\nThe further South we got, the more people would stop and talk with us and wish us well on our upcoming mission.\r\nIt seemed like a lot of people that came up and spoke with us, had family or friends in either Mississippi or New Orleans. It sure made me feel good to be on the way towards helping the people out....\r\n\r\nToday a group was playing a dice game towards the middle of the bus. Daisy had investigated the commotion and found no food and returned to me. \r\nI got a couple of dollars and slipped them under her collar and gave her the command to, \"Go out\".\r\nShe went up to the middle of the bus to the group playing the game and nosed her way into their huddle. \r\nSuddenly one of them said, \"Hey Daisy has a couple of bucks, she wants in\"!! That created a few laughs. Sometimes a well-trained dog is lot of fun to have around! \r\nWe did not have much to do on the bus as we speeded down the highway. Some people read, others talked with each other, while some stared out the window like me, probably wondering what we would be encountering.\r\nLuckily I spent most of my time and energy taking care of Daisy, which kept my mind busy.\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 2- Friday\r\nAfter driving for 3 days and nights, we arrived in Houston Texas at about 6:30 PM.\r\nAfter a quick briefing on how we would enter the hotel and register,\r\nwe formed into our squads and waited till we were called to enter the hotel.\r\nThe commend group told us that a few of the other Task Forces that had preceded us, had a few unpleasant comments tossed at them by some of the refugees staying at the hotel.\r\nThe refugees were wondering why the search teams were staying in a nice hotel and not out in the field saving lives. We wondered about that too.\r\nWe were cautioned that we should remain very low key during our stay.\r\nTough to do while you are wearing a uniform, with a dog beside you!\r\nWe had about an hour to check in, and then we regrouped in one of the side dinning rooms for dinner. The staff of the hotel had put together a magnificent dinner on very short notice for us. \r\nThe task forces from San Diego and Oakland was also at the hotel awaiting orders to deploy to New Orleans or Mississippi.\r\nAs the dog world is relativity small, it was nice to see some of the dog handlers that we knew on the San Diego team.\r\nAt some point it was hinted that we might be going to Mississippi. If this were the case then we would be using the dogs quite a bit. From what we could gather, Mississippi was dry with a lot of collapsed structures where as the New Orland\'s area was mostly under water. \r\nWe were now under orders to let our squad leaders know where we were at all times. Accountability and chain of commend must now be strictly followed. \r\nLuckily, thanks to the dogs, the dog handlers got to go outside the hotel every couple of hours so the dogs could go potty and have a little walk and some fresh air.\r\nThe rest of the team had to stay inside the hotel, bummer for them!!\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 3- Saturday\r\nToday for some reason it felt strange as we went outside the hotel to walk the dogs. It didn\'t seem too busy on the streets around the hotel. Not a lot of cars or people around. It then dawned on me that today was Saturday. Time is starting to flow together.\r\n\r\nAs we did not have any crates with us, the dogs went everywhere with us. We took them to meals, briefings, classes and to the little shops downstairs in the hotel lobby.\r\nI\'m sure at some point we will need a break from each other but for now it is working out nicely.\r\nFor some reason today, I must\'ve sorted and restarted my gear about four times. When I could take a break to relax, I watched CNN in my room to see what was going on down South. \r\nWatching what was going on in the area we were headed for, helped keep me focused as to what we could expect. \r\nEveryday we had two briefings and classes on various skills that we would be using soon.\r\nWe were led to believe from the commend staff that we would get our orders at any time. From what I could tell, our higher ups were also getting frustrated that we still did not have our orders to move out. \r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 4- Sunday\r\nRumor that we were most likely going to Mississippi floated around again.\r\nThe word came down to exercise every day to help relive stress. So this morning I got up at my usual time of 6:00 AM and told Daisy to be a good girl left her in the room. \r\nI then proceed to run the stairs in the hotel for about 30 minutes. As I was walking back to my room, I heard a dog barking. I wondered who the idiot was, that could not keep their dog quiet at such an early hour. As I got closer to my room, I found out I was that idiot! Daisy must have been barking due to my being gone for a while. I really felt embarrassed about that. \r\nAt breakfast I causally asked my teammates if any one had heard that annoying dog barking earlier that morning. No one had, so I felt relieved that I did not have to fess up that it was Daisy. I will have figure out some other way to exercise tomorrow that does not entail leaving Daisy alone in the room.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 5- Monday\r\nToday is Labor Day. We had two classes today. One was on Hazmat procedures and another one on communications/ radios.\r\nWe also got our team assignments. The team was divided into two separate groups. That was so we could work a night and day shift if need be. \r\n\r\nIn the afternoon, all of the dog handlers got together and put on a few mock searches in the hotel to keep the dogs tuned up and to help break up the boredom for them. We used a floor in the hotel that was used for conferences and had little foot traffic from the other guests. \r\nIt was nice just to have a chance to do something other then sit in our rooms, watch the news, or sort gear.\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 6- Tuesday\r\nAt the morning briefing, we started getting hints from command staff that we might turn around and head home.\r\nThat was very strange. What is going on up the line at FEMA command??\r\nIn the afternoon we went to a \"hands on\" GPS class outside at a local park. It was an excellent class and it sure felt good to be outside doing something. \r\n\r\nLater in the day, at the afternoon briefing, we were informed that we were going to New Orleans tomorrow night!!! What a roll coaster of emotions. First, we were preparing to be shipped home then the next thing that pops up on the radar is we are off to New Orleans.\r\nThe mood of the team is ecstatic!! \r\n\r\nAt around noon Carol and I took the dogs for a walk in air-conditioned tunnels under the city. We saw a lot of different shops. Were the people staring at us or the dogs or both as we walked around? \r\nAt dinner that night, an impromptu lemon-eating contest occurred. The man with the sour face won.\r\nLater that night at the evening briefing, we went over the details of our up coming deployment to New Orleans. The talk was becoming more task specific, as we were no longer dealing in generalities.\r\nAmong the high points mentioned were that it would take about 6 hours to get to New Orleans and due to the bad water, we would most likely not be using the dogs very much. Bummer! \r\nA lot of the guys got flat top haircuts that night from one of our teammates who is a cosmetologist. They had heard from our Swift Water Rescue team, who were already in New Orleans, how hot it was, so they were getting prepared. \r\n\r\nEvery Sunday Elvia and I watch the Lakewood Church service on TV originating from Houston. I looked them up in the phone book and gave their prayer line a call. A lady answered and I told her that Daisy and I were with a California Search and Rescue team and would be deploying to the disaster area the next day. She prayed with us and then started crying as she said good-by. After the phone call, I gave Daisy a hug and went to bed.\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 7- Wednesday\r\nI woke up with a stuffy head. I hope I am not getting sick. I spent the day messing around and trying to stay busy. After lunch we were issued a radio, hip waders, and some more last minute gear.\r\n\r\nTonight at about 6:30 PM after much fanfare, we boarded the buses to leave for New Orleans.\r\nOur two task force leaders, Randy and Ben would have to attend a briefing at 6:00 AM the next morning in New Orleans. \r\nAfter they got back from the briefing, we will then go directly to our first search assignment.\r\nWe drove through the night, again. There were lots of different meetings on the bus as we drove as the different squads did some preplanning with the spare time available. The dog handlers skipped having meetings with our dogs as they just wanted to play and wrestle with each other.\r\n\r\nWe arrived in New Orleans early in the morning around 3:00AM. \r\nWe slept on the bus for a few hours till Randy and Ben came back from their briefing. We then left for our first assignment, which was to work a flooded neighborhood area on the outskirts of the city with another task force. It would take us about 30 minutes to get there.\r\nOn the way to our search assignment, we went through the city of New Orleans. We saw the damaged Super Dome. By this time all of the people were gone and all we saw were mountains of garbage around the building.\r\nIn that same general area we saw that the water level had dropped and it was evident from the piles of garbage on the freeways that a lot of people had sought refuge on the highest part of the freeways to seek protection from the floodwaters.\r\nAs we traveled through the city we saw lots of destroyed and flooded buildings. What most caught my eye, were the flooded streets that were below us as we drove by on the freeway overhead. \r\nEvery street seemed to have a dog swimming in it or stranded on a porch. \r\nThat was like a kick to the gut as I identify pretty close with dogs and felt bad for them.\r\nIt was eerie, as there were no people anywhere in the city just dogs swimming around and the tops of flooded cars/ trucks peeking through the blue but foul water. We saw lots of police, fire, military, and rescue teams on the way to our search site working all over the city.\r\nI had to do a quick mental adjustment to cope with horrendous scene presented below me as we drove towards our search area.\r\n\r\nWe arrived at our search area and set up our forward base of operations, (BOO). \r\nIt was real hot and humid even at that relatively early hour of 9:00 AM.\r\nThe first wave of boats was launched at about 10:30 AM. Since we all had radios, I was able to listen in as the crews worked. I was soon to hear the word \"floater\" used. It referred to a dead body in the water. Sad, it was somebody\'s sister; mother, brother, uncle, or dad.\r\nWe had to distance ourselves from the reality of what we saw / experienced so we could still do our jobs but still in the back of my mind, the reality of what I saw/ heard, smelled, hit me and stuck. I would process it later when I had the time.\r\nAs we were not using the dogs that day, I stayed busy helping out wherever I could.\r\nWhen I was not busy, I went over to a trailer that the SPCA had set up for a holding area for stray or rescued dogs that happened to be near us. I fed and watered the dogs. It made me feel like I was contributing and really making a difference in their world.\r\nOur dogs stayed in wire crates in the shade that day. One of the dog handlers would stay with them at all times to make sure they were safe and cared for.\r\n\r\nWe had about (8) refugees that saw us and came over and asked to be transported out of the area. These were people that had refused to leave in the beginning but now eight days latter, had realized that there was not going to be any running water or electricity for quite a while. They waited in the shade and we took care of them for about 4 hours, then a large military chopper flew in to take them out.\r\n\r\nLater in the day, a New Orleans cop showed up. He kept saying that is was fantastic that we were here and what we were doing for his city, and we were a most welcome sight. It sure was nice of him to say something.\r\nWe latter found out that a sizeable number of the police force had not showed up for work and they were very short handed.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nOnce we returned to the base camp that evening, everyone pitched in and helped set up the sleeping tents and other gear we would need to have access to while we were there. We had a total of 3 big tents that would hold about twenty people. They were even air-conditioned. \r\nSince I was with Daisy and did not want to inconvenience anyone, I elected to sleep outside. \r\nThat way, I could have access to my gear and could take Daisy out for an early or late potty walk without waking anyone. I was later to regret that decision on two separate occasions.\r\n\r\nOne night a plane flew over the camp and sprayed the mosquitoes with some type of a chemical! Another night it rained so badly, that Daisy and I had to seek cover in one of the big sleeping tents, as the lean-to I put together to cover us, leaked so badly.\r\n\r\nThat night after the team had set up the camp, I took care of Daisy, played with her, then ate and took a shower. At around 10:00 PM, I called Elvia then went to bed, very tired. Before I fell asleep I reviewed the day. Had I done all I could to take proper care of Daisy? Had I been productive in my work assignments? Did I have the right gear and was it functioning properly? \r\nI was to ask myself variations of these questions every night so as to keep myself prepared for whatever the next day would throw at us. At about 3:00 AM the barking of Rowley and Daisy rudely awakened me. They had seen a cat walk past. Carol had the foresight to tether Rowley to something before she went to sleep, so all he did was bark. Daisy on the other hand was not tied, as I had been holding her leash till I fell asleep. So, after a few calls she came back to me. Will I ever stop doing stupid things?\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 9- Friday\r\nMorning arrived. The day started for me at about 6:00 AM. It was still nice and cool and the sun was not yet up. I took Daisy to a nearby football field and played ball with her. As I played with her, I ate dry cereal and had a cup of coffee and watched the sun come up. All in all, it was a very nice, quite peaceful way to start the day with my best four-legged friend. I was to repeat this pleasant activity every morning when possible.\r\nOnce back in camp, I packed up my gear for the day. At about 10:00 we left for the days search assignment. It was to be the same area that we had searched the day before.\r\nMy assignment today was to man the ice chest and make sure we had enough cool drinks for everyone. I called myself the \"snack mom\".\r\nI got some strange looks as not everyone \"got\" the joke.\r\n\r\nCarol and Bud (dog handlers) got to search a dry area with their dogs. \r\nOnce they returned, they told me that the search area was so foul and full of potential Hazardous Materials for the dogs, that they kept them on-lead most of the time to protect them from getting into something that could hurt them. \r\n\r\nWe did not have any rescues today, other then a few people that walked in to our (BOO). The military made several chopper pick-ups during the day to evacuate the people that walked in. \r\n\r\nToday there were quite a few dogs in the SPCA trailer. They had no water in their bowls, so I loaded them up. When Carol came back from her search and she started to clean up the SPCA trailer, it was filthy. The military is now going out in every boat with us to ensure our safety. There were reports of people shooting at some of the search teams. Scary thought!\r\nDaisy is making friends and the team enjoys petting her when they have a chance. I am starting to see that she and the other dogs are helping team moral. If nothing else, the dogs seemed to remind my teammates of home and gave them a brief mental break.\r\n\r\nAfter we were done searching for the day, we would take about an hour to pack things up and another hour to get back to base. Once back at base, most of the crew would shower, eat and socialize till it was time to go to sleep. We would also take the time to clean, check and organize your gear for the next day. \r\nI saw a lot of people slipping off at various times to be by themselves to place a call to home. This was very beneficial, as it helped us defuse what had happened during the day and helped our family\'s understand what we were going through. \r\n\r\nThat night I called Elvia to let her know what was going on and that Daisy and I were ok. She was happy to here from me and said that the local TV news had called her inquiring about Daisy and I. They wanted to interview us when we returned.\r\nOh boy, here we go! Watching, not being on TV is my forte. I wonder if I would have anything of interest to tell them?\r\n\r\nAs I am by nature a bit of a loner, I spent my time in camp at night playing and taking care of Daisy. I also had the foresight to bring a small pocket TV with me. So right before I went to sleep, I watched the local news for a few minutes to see what was going on from a broader perspective.\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 10- Saturday\r\nToday was full of highs and lows for the K9 group. It seems that since we are not using the dogs, they the team managers have not figured out what to do with us, the handlers. We the K9 handlers are still not assigned to any jobs. We spoke with our chain of command; Rodger& Rex and they agreed with us and said they would try to fix the problem.\r\n\r\nLater in the day, a couple that spoke only Spanish came to the BOO and I was called forward to translate and see what they wanted.\r\nI did not understand all they said, so I asked for a cell phone and called Elvia my wife at work in California. She is Mexican and fluent in Spanish. \r\nI told Elvia the situation and she spoke to them over the cell phone. \r\nThe couple was looking for their uncle who they had not seen in about a week. \r\nThey gave us his address. I told them we would check it out and to come back in about 2 hours. The wonders of modern technology!!! As it turned out, the uncle was not at the house and they located him at a near by shelter.\r\n\r\nI got my first field assignment today. They told us that if we fell in the water and our head went under, that we would have to go to the hospital as the water was so foul. \r\nThe technical term for this is full emersion. We would have to be hospitalized and they would insert a tube into our lungs and suck any water out. Not something I wanted to have done to me! \r\n\r\nI went out in a boat and we mapped a street for the teams to search without me falling overboard. The boats that we are in are small metal fishing boats with outboard motors. It sure is weird to motor over to a house and be looking in at a room full of water. The rooms were a mess! Furniture and all kinds of stuff floating around in the Brown foul water. \r\nNo way to clean that up. While we were out on the water, we saw a lot of animal rescue people out in boats too. Boy, they are really working hard!!!!!!!! \r\nOnce we returned to the forward (BOO), we had to go through the Decon line where our gear and we were cleaned of any potential hazardous material.\r\n\r\nPoor Carol and Bob spent the whole day at an abounded Circle K doing nothing. The higher ups are still struggling on what to do with us. We feel bad, as everyone is working their butts off but us. \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 11- Sunday\r\nWater Opp\'s again today. Carol was busy this morning doing things, so I watched the dogs. In the afternoon I went out in the command safety boat. While we were out, we helped a family in a boat that had come to get a few positions from their house. What can you say to someone whose house is totaled? \r\nAs the dad was driving the boat away, the wife and daughter were crying over a small collection of pictures that they had managed to save. \r\nThe devastation and the terrible effect that the disaster had on the human element are tough to deal with at times for all of us, victims and rescuers alike. It was very hot out on the flooded streets. We have to deal with the heat and humidity while we were in long sleeved shirts and pants to protect ourselves. I had to force myself to keep eating and drinking so as to keep from bonking.\r\n\r\nLater that day we found and reported a kitty in a partiality-flooded locked house to the SPCA/ Humane Society. It was the only live thing we saw the whole time we were searching. I hope they rescue it soon.\r\n\r\nCarol spoke with Carl, one of the Rescue team managers about the K9 handlers not having regular job assignments. He got the word out to the rescue team squad leaders to start using the K9 people on a regular basis. \r\nWe finally found the person that could make things happen and it did, from that point on we were given job assignments. \r\n\r\nThe team is starting to mesh well together, as the work activity is becoming more routine to us all. That is the up side to the environment that we are currently working in. The down side is that one can become accustomed to working in such depressing and horrible working conditions. Everywhere you look, you see catastrophic destruction and on occasion, death staring you in the face. \r\nAt some point we will all start to show signs of stress due to the pressure and working conditions that we are under. How and when it will manifest itself is any ones guess.\r\nI remind myself that I have (3) important thinks to keep in mind, take care of Daisy at all times, stay safe, and keep working hard. \r\n\r\nThat night Randy, our task force leader called us all together to make a few announcements. At the end he had a few of the guys drag out a couple of large boxes in front of the group. Randy then proceeded to tell us that in the boxes were comfort/care kits that some of the family members had put together and shipped to us. \r\nWow, what a nice thing for them to do! It brought home to me, that our family members and friends were thinking about us, as much as we were thinking of them. I\'m sure they were under some pressure worrying about us.\r\nSide note. Today is 9/11. It sure is strange to be here working on the same day, as another major disaster occurred not to long ago. I did not go to 9/11 but some of my teammates did.\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 12- Monday\r\nWe worked in the flooded downtown area today. A fleet of White vans that were being used by a company that would be recovering human remains followed us out to our search area. As we found them, they bagged them.\r\nIt was tough to see or think about that part of the rescue/ recovery operation.\r\n\r\nI worked on the Decon line today. It was nice to have a structured job and it sure gave me a nice feeling of being useful. Bud stayed with the dogs, while I worked, and Carol and Bob went out in the boats as part of the search team. It was a hot, hot, day. Poor dogs, they spent most of the day in their wire crates in the air-conditioned bus.\r\n\r\nThe search teams found one guy. After he had gone through the Decon line I tried to speak with him. \r\nHe looked straight at me as I spoke to him but it was like he did not understand me. He just looked at me blankly. Was it due to a mental problem, drugs, or shock? I do not know.\r\n\r\nToday is real hot and humid and I miss Elvia!\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 13- Tuesday\r\nToday was an overcast day but still mighty hot and humid. We worked in a dry area today. Daisy and I were part of a squad that went house to house. I send Daisy into the houses that were not locked. As we went from house to house searching I kept Daisy on a leash to keep her from getting into anything that could harm her. \r\nThe routine was to pound on the front door and yell, \"Rescue or fire department, anybody here\"? \r\nAs I was doing this, I noticed that Daisy started sniffing under the front door of every house that we went up to without me prompting her. \r\nDid she do this at training too? It was like she knew what we were doing without me having to tell her.\r\nAs some of the houses were open, I utilized the opportunity to have Daisy search them. I made sure I had one of the guys backing Daisy and I up, in case of trouble. We rotated going in to the houses first.\r\nIt sure was exciting to use her for the real deal. Daisy did fine. She preformed as she had in the 100\'s of hours we have spent training. \r\nI was nervous enough for us both though. In one house she cleared the living room and I opened a door to the next room for her to search. As soon as I opened it, something small and black ran out and between my legs! I was thinking giant rat! I yelled and jumped back and Daisy barked at it. \r\nIt turned out to be a small Black Labrador puppy! The puppy had been locked in a room with a broken water pipe for at least 10 days and had eaten up all the food that had been left for it. \r\n\r\nAs I was carrying food for Daisy to use as treats, I dumped my load of food on the floor and we shut the puppy in the living room. \r\nI then wrote \"live dog\" in big letters on the side of the house and recorded it on a list to give to the SPCA. Per FEMA instructions, we were not to write on any of the buildings in that area but I really wanted that puppy saved!! \r\n\r\nAfter we cleared our search area, Daisy and the rest of the squad went through the Decon line. It was a crack-up to see them clean Daisy, paws and all! She hated it. I guess it reminded her of a shower, which she is not very fond of.\r\n\r\nWe finished our search assignment early that day, so they took us to Bourbon St. We got to get out of the bus and walk around. It was strange but there was nobody around but the military and us. Except one guy that is, as we were walking around, he popped out on a balcony and started throwing bead necklaces to us!! Weird guy.\r\n\r\nThere is a very heavy military presence here in the main part of the city.\r\nI guess they are here due to the looting that had taken place earlier in the week.\r\n\r\nAs my vacation days that I am using for this deployment are running out and there is not much work for the dog teams, I will see if Daisy and I can leave next Saturday. I am anxious to get back home.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 14- Wednesday\r\nWater Opp\'s again today at the New Orleans University Lakeview campus.\r\nI went out in a boat with another teammate and we went house-to-house breaking in and hailing. We were checking/ hoping for any signs of life.\r\nAfter we have hailed and looked in to the house, we spray painted search markings on the house to let other teams know that the house had been searched.\r\nIn our boat were a Fish and Game driver and Coast Guard Special Operations guy; he was the gun guy to protect us.\r\nWe worked for about two hours then we were recalled, as it was so hot.\r\nWe had been instructed by Medical/ Safety to drink two pints of water and one pint of Power Aid per hour as it was so brutally hot and humid. The Medical and Safety staff was excellent and they really took good care of us.\r\nOnce we got back to the (BOO), I stayed with the dogs and Carol went out in one of the search boats.\r\n\r\nAs I was walking one of the dogs later in the day, a lady drove up and thanked me for being here and then just drove off. Funny, how little it takes for me to feel needed and what I am doing matters to someone. \r\nLatter that day one of the college students came up to me and asked if she could go onto the campus to get some personal items from her dorm room. I referred her to the military people that were providing security for us. They would not let her go on campus even though it was now dry. To dangerous they said. I felt bad for her, as her life was turned upside down.\r\n\r\nThat night I found out from Elvia that my sister Lynna is deployed to Baton Rouge with Perry her disaster therapy stress relief dog. \r\nShe and her team will be destressing rescue, emergency medical services and other workers that responded to the event. Way to go Lynna! It is getting to be a family affair. I hope she is safe. It is her first deployment too.\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 15- Thursday\r\nWe finally got a much-needed day of rest. I sat in the air-conditioned bus with Daisy most of the day, as it was beastly hot. Luckily the bus had a video system so we watched movies most of the day. The pavement outside was so hot it burned her little paws. I must admit that after a few hours of relaxing, I started to get antsy as I was ready to saddle up and get going again. I am sure Daisy felt the same way, as she recovers quicker then me and is even more hyper.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 16- Friday\r\nWe searched the Lakeview area again today. I was working on the Decon line for about 3 hours, and then I took a lunch break and sat in the cool \r\nair-conditioned bus to eat and relax for about an hour. While I was in the bus, one of the teams out on the water found a 70+ year-old male that was still alive in his house. He had been there since that flooding had started umpteen days ago!\r\nI heard about it after I went back to work on the Decon line. I missed seeing him, as they had already transported him to the hospital. \r\nFigures, the only high visibility find and I am goofing off in the bus!!! Word raced through the other task forces that we had a live find. It revitalized the search efforts for all of the teams.\r\n\r\nThat night once we were back at camp, a big thunderstorm hit us. Daisy was a bit squeamish with the thunder and lighting but she did fine. No comment as to how I did. \r\n\r\n\r\nSeptember 17- Saturday\r\nCarol and I will fly out today. The rest of the team will leave in about 3-4 days.\r\nRandy, the task force leader, gave us a nice send off speech in front of the rest of the team at the morning briefing.\r\nWe were to fly from the New Orleans airport on Delta to Atlanta, then on to San Francisco. A firefighter from Menlo Park would pick us up and take us to our cars.\r\nWe went to the New Orleans airport about four hours before our flight. Why not sit under air-conditioning then the 90-degree plus heat was our thinking.\r\nDelta was the only airline flying so we sat on the floor in a long check-in line till our flight was called. \r\nStill in uniform, Carol, the dogs and I were very noticeable. While we waited, people kept coming over to talk to us and pet the dogs. \r\nThe flights home were for the most part uneventful and the passengers and flight crew on all of the flights were nice to us.\r\nHowever at one security checkpoint, the security person with the wand spent about 5 minutes going over me. The rest of the security staff was asking Carol questions about the dogs and what we had gone through in New Orleans, as this security bozo with the wand kept checking out every single squawk that the wand gave out, as it hit small metal pieces of my pants. Yea buddy, I am a terrorist disguised in a FEMA uniform with a search dog! At this point, my ability to handle stupidity was at a minimum. Stress is now becoming a factor in my behavior.\r\n\r\nSo that\'s how I spent my vacation for 2005. \r\nWas the trip scary for me? You bet it was. I was not sure that I would meet the expectations of my team, which for me was a scary thought. I was also afraid I would do something dumb and it would result in Daisy or myself being harmed. Luckily neither happened. As it turned out, I never was afraid for my safety. However, I was always nervous about what could happen to Daisy. It is very hard for me to deal with that in a certain aspect she could be expendable if it comes down to saving a human life.\r\n\r\nAfter I got home, it took me about three days to get back to my normal routine. I was one of the fortunate ones, some of my teammates did not fair so well.\r\nAfter we returned, I learned that a few people had resigned from the task force for various reasons. Some were having problems processing and dealing with what they had gone through. Calling Elvia every night helped me keep things in perspective, plus I was pretty lucky, as I had my own private four-legged therapist with me the whole time!\r\n\r\nThanks to Carol Herse, Pat Grant and Chantal Rose who trained me, to train Daisy, which afforded me the opportunity to be one of four certified dog teams for Task Force 3. I also owe a great deal to Elvia who helped train and take care of Daisy. A big special thanks to little Daisy, who my be small in stature but has the drive and heart of a lion when it comes to doing her job! We all really picked a winner in her!\r\n\r\nPost scrip- It is now May 2006 and the word is that the upcoming hurricane season that will start in 3 months could be even worse then last season......\r\nAs the days pass since the deployment, the memory of what we went through has slowly started to fade. I now am faced with a hunger to go on another deployment to prove to myself I can build on what Katrina taught me and do a better job. \r\nMy training with Daisy is more focused, as I how realize that the training that we do could mirror what we will be doing on a deployment.\r\n

Citation

“[Untitled],” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed June 27, 2022, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/29420.